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Maryland delivers COVID-19 aid to heritage tourism nonprofits

Maryland is delivering more than $600,000 in COVID-19 relief funds to nonprofits promoting heritage tourism in the state.

The Maryland Heritage Areas Authority said Friday it is furnishing grants to 59 organizations supporting tourism in the state’s 13 Certified Heritage Areas. The tourism industry has suffered some of the harshest financial setbacks stemming from measures intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“As we gradually begin to open carefully across Maryland during this pandemic, it is critical that we support struggling nonprofits to help maintain the state’s heritage tourism economy,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement.

The authority received 114 applications seeking $1.8 million total, according to the state. Applicants reported shortfalls from revenue sources, including admissions, memberships and contributions.

Nonprofits, including museums, historic theaters and cultural centers, reported struggling to cover expenses such as salaries and utilities. Maryland Heritage Areas Authority said it is still accepting applications for emergency grants on a rolling basis.

Maryland currently has 13 Certified Heritage Areas, including the Baltimore National Heritage Area, the Canal Place Preservation and Development Authority in Cumberland, and the Heart of the Civil War Heritage area spanning parts of Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties.

Grants awarded to the organizations ranged from as little as $600 up to $20,000, with a median award of $10,000. The Baltimore National Heritage Area received $100,000, the most funds awarded to a single heritage district.

The tourism industry has been hard hit throughout the state. Loss of tourism dollars has hurt jurisdictions like Baltimore whose economies heavily depend on visitors.

Last year visitor spending in the city, according to a report released Thursday by Visit Baltimore, supported nearly 87,000 jobs, which represented more than 6% of all jobs in the city. The roughly 27 million visitors created a $6 billion impact.

State investments in heritage areas supported the equivalent of 3,146 full-time jobs, providing nearly $100.4 million that in turn generated nearly $12 million in state taxes and roughly $7.8 million in local taxes, according to a 2018 economic impact report by the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority.

Since state restrictions on business and travel were put in place in March nearly 657,000 residents have filed first-time unemployment claims. Maryland has slowly started easing restrictions on operations in the state, and moved into the second phase of the Hogan administration’s reopening plan.

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